Many ferry passengers have known for some time that the ferry system in our state is broken. Some state leaders have continuously fought to reform the troubled agency to restore the public trust, only to be met with fierce resistance from powerful labor unions and well-compensated upper management.
New information from Island Transit shows a series of poor financial decisions made by local managers are the source of the district’s trouble, not lack of state money. Island Transit provides bus service and vanpools throughout Whidbey and Camano Islands, with routes connecting Skagit and Snohomish Counties. The agency is fully subsidized by taxpayers and doesn’t collect fares from passengers. Earlier this year, Island Transit officials announced plans to cut the Camano Island to Everett bus route, citing a lack of state tax money as the primary reason.
Seattle voters will have their say in November on another tax plan to “save” Metro bus service. Last week, the Seattle City Council voted to send the tax-increase plan to the November ballot with the following text:
The Seattle Transportation Benefit District’s Proposition 1 concerns funding for Metro Transit service.
Earlier this week, the King County Council unanimously passed an ordinance to preserve 96% of Metro bus service by only adopting a 161,000-hour service cut on September 27th. Metro provides about 3.5 million hours of bus service to King County. King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski said the following about the adopted cuts (emphasis mine):
Starting tonight, three westbound lanes of Interstate 90 across Lake Washington will be closed for bridge construction. Despite pleas from the public, state officials are pressing forward with their plan to impose fully-priced tolls on those hit hardest by the road closure. The Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC), the agency responsible for tolling in the region, said they cannot exempt the public from paying tolls on SR-520 during the I-90 construction project, because it needs the $1.3 million in revenue to pay back debt.
Starting tomorrow night, three westbound lanes of Interstate 90 across Lake Washington will be closed for a week due to bridge repairs. The construction could lead to crippling congestion for cars and buses across and around the lake. The unusual shut down has irritated many in the public, who look to state officials to reduce or eliminate the tolls on SR-520 to ease some of the frustration. The Washington State Transportation Commission, responsible for tolling in the region, responded:
Last week, the Seattle City Council reversed course and repealed its earlier decision to artificially cap the number of rideshare drivers in the city. Today, the City Council cleared the next hurdle by legalizing rideshares by an eight to one council vote. The decision, based on an agreement spearheaded by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, gives consumers more choices in how they travel around Seattle’s congested streets.
The Seattle Times Editorial Board says Congress needs to act to fix the soon-to-be-broke Highway Trust Fund, but they say raising the federal 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax is not the way to do it. Lately, Congress has been spending money out of the Highway Trust Fund faster than gas tax money comes in to support it. The solution, Times editors say, needs to come quickly because Congress only has about 30 days to solve the problem.
State officials tell the public that the gas taxes and other driver fees they collect are user fees, deposited into a special trust fund to maintain and expand the state’s road network to provide a quicker trip. It’s a promise to use taxpayer money and make things better. Yet, traffic congestion levels continue to rise. In an October 2013 poll, 63% of respondents said they were unimpressed with public officials’ performance on relieving traffic congestion. People’s frustration is understandable.
In a masterpiece of clarity and concision, The Seattle Times has posted Frank Shiers’ cartoon that gets at the heart of the reason behind the coming cuts in King County Metro bus service. County Executive Dow Constantine, despite Councilmember Rod Dembowski’s plan that would save 95% of current bus service, is pushing ahead with a painful operation that is no longer necessary. As Councilmember Larry Phillips put it, “There’s no action more regressive than gutt
The Seattle Times reports today that top King County leaders may have been “crying wolf” earlier this year when they threatened a 16% cut in bus services unless voters agreed to accept increases in regressive sales and car taxes to direct more money to Metro Transit.
Soon after the people of King County defeated Proposition 1 , King County Executive Dow Constantine’s proposal to increase regressive sales and car taxes to avoid his bus-cuts plan, Executive Dow Constantine said “There are no other options but to cut [bus] service.”
On April 22nd, voters in King County overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 1, County leaders’ proposal to increase regressive car tab fees and sales taxes to collect more money for roads and transit. After the vote, county officials say they will move ahead with their plan to impose deep cuts to bus service in communities across the county.
According to The Seattle Times, Seattle City Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata want to impose three tax increases to maintain Metro bus service in Seattle: a new tax on employers, higher parking taxes, and a hefty car tab fee.
Bob Pishue is director of WPC’s Coles Center for Transportation. Prior to joining Washington Policy Center in 2013, Bob interned at the Washington Research Council where he produced policy briefs on initiatives and referenda. His last role was the IT and HR Manager for a Bellevue-based retailer. A Washington resident throughout his life, Bob grew up in Everett and graduated from Central Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Bob serves on his church’s annual audit committee and is also an avid golfer. He lives in Kirkland.